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Startup Fits 12-node Linux Cluster On Desktop Board

Startup Orion Multisystems Inc. hopes to revive the workstation market with a design that shrinks a 12-node Linux cluster to a single large motherboard. The company is targeting vertical markets with a desktop that sells for less than $10,000 and a 96-node desk-side system priced under $100,000.

Orion leveraged the de facto cluster standard of X86 nodes linked over Gigabit Ethernet interconnects running Linux with Message Passing Interface (MPI) software libraries. The result is a single system that avoids the complexities of configuring a cluster of off-the-shelf PCs that may use different chip sets, hard drives or BIOS versions.

"The subtle changes [in PC configurations] can make a big difference in whether things work or not. We are turning clusters into an engineered system instead of an assemblage of pieces," said Colin Hunter, chief executive of Orion Microsystems.

Orion intends for its systems to be not only easier to set up than conventional clusters but also more focused on the needs of individual technical users.

"We are not trying to compete with clusters, just offering a more efficient way for some people to use them," said Hunter. "I don't expect render farms to go away, but I do want to give people doing graphic animations, for instance, an easier way to handle them."

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